Arabic (official), English and FrenchPopulation:
Egyptian pound (EGP)People:
Egyptian 98%, Nubian, Berber, Beja and Bedouin 1%, Greek, Armenian, other European (French and Italian) 1%President:
Mohammed Hosni MubarakGovernment:
Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic 9%, other Christian 1%Climate:
Desert; hot, dry summers with moderate wintersAverage Temp:
25°C (77°F)Major Industries:
Textiles, food processing, tourism, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, hydrocarbons, construction, cement, metals, light manufactures
Most tours will include a couple of nights in Cairo. From there tourists often move down to Aswan either by train or on Egypt Air and take a cruise for 4 or 5 nights on the Nile. This is an awesome experience and you will visit almost all of the historically significant monuments along this route. There are a couple of places off the beaten track which are recommended if you are backpacking. We highly recommend that you do a Nile Cruise. From there tourists go to the magnificent beach areas of Sharm El Sheikh, Burgada or Dahab.
The entire Red Sea is magnificent for diving or just relaxing on the beach. Check out our accommodation guide for more details of the various areas. A couple of nights at the coast is a must! We can honestly say we have never seen such amazing visibility in any water ever.
The quality of the hotels in Cairo can be misleading. We would recommend that you only stay in 4 or 5 star hotels. Some of the 3 star hotels are terrible. If you are really wining it, then the 3 star hotels are fine (but anything less you do at your own peril... we are getting soft in our old age). Accommodation along the coast is magnificent. Most hotels are excellent quality, and the 4 and 5 star hotels are international standard.
The cruise boats are pretty basic. Don't expect the QE2 as they are nothing like this. They are comfortable boats with stunning decks where you can sit and view the scenes along the Nile if you are traveling in the day. Most cruises travel at night from destination to destination so the tourists can walk around during the day doing all the exploring.
For more information, please check out the Egypt Accommodation Guide.
International access to Egypt is via Cairo International Airport situated in Cairo. Direct flights to Egypt from South Africa are from Johannesburg International Airport with flights leaving (and returning) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The only direct carrier is Egyptair.
Another option is to fly via Nairobi on Kenyan Airways. These flights leave from Johannesburg International on Thursdays (only) and return on all days except Tuesdays.
Nile cruises are readily available and run from Aswan to Luxor, or from Luxor to Aswan.
Local transport is freely available and there are many taxi operators and transfer companies in and around Cairo.
Driving in Egypt is an art form best left to the experts. Even the locals struggle to keep up with the ever-changing chaos on the roads. No-one obeys any traffic rules, and you basically risk your life every time you get into a vehicle. We therefore dont recommend driving to any of our clients. Rather make use of the many transfer companies or professional taxi services. (The best alternative is to contact us and we will arrange all transfers for you).
Best Time to go to Egypt
The best time to visit Egypt depends greatly on the area/s you plan to visit. The areas south of Cairo are unbearably hot during the summer months (June to September) – and therefore much more comfortable in the winter months (December to March).
In sharp contrast, winter in Cairo can get really chilly - and warm clothes are recommended (layers work well).
November to February is Egypts high season and not surprisingly – most expensive season and its not uncommon for airlines and hotels to hike their prices up by 30%! If money is no object and you love crowds, this would be the best time to go. (The Christmas-New year period is especially popular).
From end September to end October (Egypts fall) the worst heat starts to subside and things become much more pleasant. Another plus is that the tourist season hasnt quite started, ensuring much more reasonable prices all over. The bridging seasons (October to November, and April to May) are also quite enjoyable.
Unless you can help it, avoid going to Egypt over the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims the world over undergo their annual fast from sunrise to sunset. Just about all forms of business (and leisure) grind to a halt, including many hotels and restaurants. Eating, drinking and smoking in public, although not forbidden, is frowned upon as rude and life in general becomes rather difficult. Once the fast is broken however, the streets come alive and people eat, drink, socialise and even shop – sometimes until the sun comes up!!!
Egypt has a desert climate; characterised by hot, dry summers and moderate winters. There are only really these two seasons, and only difference between them is the variations in daytime temperatures and the type and strength of the winds. Winter temperatures range between 20 and 26°C, while summers average around 30°C.
Rain isnt a big factor in Egypt and the country receives less than 80mm of annual rain in most areas. Alexandria is the wettest region and measures about 200mm a year. The humidity is high but luckily the prevailing sea breezes ensure less discomfort and are really welcome.
Communications and electricity
Communication from Egypt is quite easy, as a multitude of internet cafes exist, with most also providing telephonic facilities. Prepaid phone cards are your best bet, as they usually offer the best rates. International cell phone roaming is also available, please contact your network to ascertain if they have facilities in Egypt.
Egypts electricity is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second (50 Hz).
If your devices dont accept 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will require a voltage converter. The plugs in use have two round pins, and you might need an adapter if your plugs are different. If you plan on spending a great deal of time abroad, you might want to consider purchasing a combination voltage converter and plug adapter.
Currency: The local currency is the Egyptian Pound. The current rate of exchange (May 2006) is EGP5.83292 = US$1 (EGP1 = US$0.17144).
Youll find that converting your money in Egypt will usually be cheaper than at home, so dont stress too much about doing this in advance. You will however need to make preparations for your first 2 days (as banks may be closed due to holidays or weekends) so be sure to take some cash (US$ will do) with you to see you through this initial stage. Not many Bureau de Change or hotels accept ZAR.
While US dollars are generally accepted, flashing large amounts of this currency will identify you as a tourist and may attract unwanted attention.Banks in Egypt:
Credit Cards and Travellers Cheques
- Al Watany Bank Of Egypt
- Arab Investment Bank
- Arab Islamic Bank
- Banque Du Cair Barclays Int'l
- Banque Misr
- Banque National De Paris
- Cairo Bank
- Credit Lyonnais
- Credit Suisse First Boston
- Egyptian American Bank
- Egyptian British Bank
- Egyptian Gulf Bank
- Egyptian Saudi Finance Bank
- Islamic International Bank
- Mashreq Bank
- Misr Exterior Bank
- National Bank of Abu Dhabi
- National Bank of Egypt
- State Bank of India
- The Bank Of New York
- El Nile Bank
- The Principal Bank for Development & Agricultural Credit
Travellers cheques arent too popular in Egypt, although the more classy hotels will accept them, as will many of the banks. Credit cards are more preferential and usually ensure a better exchange rate than the retail rate of banks and the local bureau de change.
The official language of Egypt is Arabic, although most residents have a good knowledge of English. Some important words in Arabic are:
- Hello - Marhaba (informal) or As-Salaamu aleikum (formal)
- Response to hello - Wa Aleikum as-salaam (formal)
- How are you? - Izzayyak? (male) Izzayik? (female)
- I am well - Kwayyis (male) Kwayyisa (female)
- Thank you - Shukran
- Goodbye - Ma as-salaama
- Water - Mayya
- Lunch - Al-ghada
- Dinner - Al- ‘asha
- Coffee - Ahwa
- Tea - Shay
- Help! - Saaidoonee!
- Go away! - Imshee!
The majority of people on the island follow the Muslim faith. Dress code to them is of particular importance and it is suggested that women try to dress fairly conservatively in order not to offend the local people. 90% of the people are Muslim, with the balance being a mixture of Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews.
Hospitals in Egypt are not entirely up to Western standards and very few doctors speak English. Most hotels can however call a qualified doctor in an emergency, and some the larger, more upper-class hotels have their own resident doctors on call.
Egyptian pharmacies stock a great variety of medications, but you probably wont find the brand names youre used to. Ensure you have a good description of your current medication, and they will be able to supply you with a good equivalent, and usually at a cheaper price as well. Most towns have pharmacies, but youll only find emergency outlets (open 24 hours) in the big cities.
Always ensure that you have adequate medical insurance for your travels.
Egypt is most known for its amazing pyramids and beautiful ancient artifacts, and youll be spoilt for choice amongst the many temples, structures, royal palaces, museums and vaults. Of these wonderful attractions, some of the most popular ones include:
- The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx
- Abu Simbel
- Temples of Karnak
- Valley of the Kings
- Lake Nasser
- Museum of Islamic Arts
- Egyptian Antiquities Museum
- Luxor Temple
- Siwa Oasis
- Felucca on the Nile
- Medieval Cairo
These could easily keep you busy for weeks, and then you wont even have scraped the surface. Very few countries have such a treasure of ancient artifacts and structures stretching back 7000 thousand years. No wonder people return year after year to discover yet another region or facet of this amazing country.
But Egypt also has a great deal of other attractions, such as its markets, beautiful landscape and culture-rich towns. The Nile itself is a must-see and if you can incorporate a cruise on this life-giving river, we definitely recommend it.
What to pack
Clothes these should be light and comfortable, especially if youre planning to do a lot of sight seeing, in which case comfortable shoes are a must as well. Pack light as you may end up carting your luggage all over the place. Light cotton shirts, blouses and skirts work well as you can simply rinse them in your hotel room basin and hang out to dry (saving you on those steep laundry fees).
A jersey or windbreaker is recommended for those winter nights (just in case), although – if youre planning to visit Cairo in winter – dont be fooled as it can get really chilly. Women are "frowned upon" for wearing revealing clothes. Mini-skirts are a definite no. Try to wear shorts (no not hot pants) or a long skirt, and try to keep the shoulders covered. A hat and sunglasses are a must as the sun can be very harsh.Travel Insurance
It is imperative that you have travel insurance. Even though they do not check any certificates when you enter the airports, for your own peace of mind, make sure that you are adequately covered.
Crime in Egypt
The crime rate in Egypt is low. While incidents of violence are rare, purse-snatching, pick-pocketing and petty theft do occur. Travellers are strongly cautioned not to leave valuables such as cash, jewellery, and electronic items unsecured in hotel rooms or unattended in public places. Unescorted women are vulnerable to sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
South Africans require a visa for entry into Egypt but they are free of charge. These are obtainable from the Embassy in Pretoria, or we can arrange them for you.
Its advisable to obtain your visa from your nearest Egyptian embassy or consulate before departure, but if youve run out of time you will be able to obtain one at the Airport in Cairo or at the Port of Alexandria (some restrictions may apply). Visas cost US$15.
Possibly one of the most important requirements, although not a pre-requisite - is travel insurance. Visitors must make sure they are adequately covered. If you are unsure about what you should take out, please contact us and we will gladly help you.